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Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), also called evergreen magnolia, bull-bay, big-laurel, or large-flower magnolia, has large fragrant white flowers and evergreen leaves that make it one of the most splendid of forest trees and a very popular ornamental that has been planted around the world. This moderately fast-growing medium-sized tree grows best on rich, moist, well-drained soils of the bottoms and low uplands of the Coastal Plains of Southeastern United States.
Southern magnolia is most frequently grown as a single specimen tree in the landscape. Its coarse-textured leaves provide an excellent background for shrubs, particularly needle evergreens. Since the tree sheds old leaves each spring and seed pods in late summer, it is best to plant it in an ornamental bed instead of an open lawn area.
A row of Southern magnolias provides an excellent screen or hedge to block undesirable views or to define property lines. It can also be grown as an espalier against a wall, but be prepared to provide extra care needed to train and maintain the tree in the desired shape.
Southern magnolia can be grown in sun or shade. It prefers moist, well-drained, acidic soils. It is tolerant of high moisture levels and can be planted in areas prone to wet/dry fluctuations in soil moisture.
Container-grown Southern magnolias can be planted successfully any time of year. Balled-and burlapped trees are usually transplanted from August to October. Don't be alarmed if the tree sheds an unusually large number of leaves during the first growing season. Transplant shock is common with Southern magnolia.
stratified seeds may be sown in late winter or spring. Spring sowing appears to be best in areas where depredation by rodents is a serious problem. The sown seeds should be covered with about 0.25 in of soil and mulch should be kept on the beds until all danger from frost is past. The emerged seedlings need half shade during much of their first summer.